How to Spend 3 Days in San Diego
A full San Diego experience can be had in three days if you plan an itinerary with tours that combine the sights, culture, and adventures of Southern California’s Pacific coast. Here are our top ideas for how to spend your time, including a day trip to wine country or Mexico.
Day 1: Check Out Top Attractions
Get oriented to the city on a hop-on hop-off trolley tour, which provides transportation to popular destinations such as Old Town, Seaport Village, the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, or Little Italy. The Go San Diego Card complements the independent nature of the trolley tour with entrance to participating venues at one price. Depending on your interests, check out one or two of San Diego’s major attractions, such as the San Diego Zoo (home to the giant pandas), SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay, or the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego Bay waterfront. Then enjoy the city from the water on a San Diego Bay dinner cruise, which typically includes a meal with sides and dessert. Some cruises include additional features such as Champagne or a DJ. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase if not included in the price.
Day 2: Get Active
With its near year-round pleasant weather, San Diego is made for outdoor activities. Explore the sea caves of La Jolla on a kayaking tour for the chance to spot wildlife such as seabirds, sea lions, and perhaps dolphins, or go further into the ocean on a whale-watching cruise to look for migrating whales and other marine life. On land, discover Balboa Park by Segway on a tour of the gardens, architecture, and cultural sites of this urban oasis, or head to Coronado on a Segway adventure that takes you on the ferry, to the beach, and past the historic Hotel del Coronado. Spend the evening on a food and drinks walking tour themed around a piece of the city’s history, such as the seedy aspects of the Gaslamp Quarter, now a nightlife district, or the Mexican and Native American heritage of Old Town, including tequila tastings.
Day 3: Get Away for the Day
San Diego sits less than 20 miles (30 kilometers) north of Mexico, making it easy to visit on a day trip. Tijuana is the closest destination, which you can explore on a Baja California coastal tour. You have the chance to go sightseeing and shop for gifts and souvenirs along Avenida Revolución, and then continue down the coast to Rosarito for free time to hit the beach or walk around town. Alternatively, discover one of California’s lesser-known wine regions on a day trip to Temecula, located inland between San Diego and Los Angeles. Enjoy tastings of different varietals at local wineries, and learn about winemaking in an area sandwiched between the desert and the ocean.